1. 9

  2. 6

    There are certainly risks here. One is that the effort might fail, as other efforts to do payments have failed in the past.

    Another risk is that they might actually build it, and achieve a failure.

    It sends tokens that contain the information needed to make a single payment of a particular amount, instead of information that can be reused to make additional payments in the future.

    This is not useful to a business. One-off revenue is lousy, it is thin and wheedly like the efforts of self-published authors or it is hit-driven with all the crazy stories you hear from music and the movies. Businesses need predicatible revenue matched to expenses like subscriptions. Think of how big software firms spent the last three decades blowing up after one bad release meant they couldn’t fund the next year. Think of restaurants that open and fold in three months. Think of any startup advice ever.

    The old payment efforts failed because they provided one-off payments where the cognitive cost of deciding to buy something is higher than the cost of a payment. You can’t ask a customer to pay a nickel (or a hundreth of one) for a news article because they have to think about that as much as when you offer a book for $10. There’s nothing very technically demanding about micropayments, they’ve failed for human reasons.

    I realize I’m reading a lot into a few words and I hope those involved have researched their predecessors, but this is the opening notes of a familiar sad song.

    1. 2

      I got your point, and it was very insightful, thank you! I think there are a few things that could make micropayments work.

      First, while the subscription model is loved by business it’s hated by customers (it’s a guess, not any sort of data). The main reason it works is because customers have no real choice. So a single brave competitor might appear and sell micropayments model to customers as the one respecting privacy and not requiring a commitment. If this works, this business will disrupt the whole landscape and get a very loyal customer base. It requires a leap of faith in the idea that all of your one-off anonymous payments are probably mostly returning customers. And the right way of keeping them is by keeping making a good product, not by hooking them on a subscription model.

      Another point, is that customers had never been exposed to a smooth working implementation of the idea. Indeed, only a few people would probably want to think about paying for every single search query or a video playback. But it could work as a way of introduction: pay for a single thing as many times as you want and subscribe if/when you decided you’re ready.

      1. 2

        I have seen no resistance to subscriptions for companies who provide ongoing value, and customers who receive value (modulo a handful of pathological niches with odd norms, like mobile games) are happy to pay steadily to ensure they’ll receive value steadily.

        I’ve advanced the idea that micropayments have failed because the cognitive cost of a transaction is not different from the cognitive cost of regular payments - all the work, a hundreth of the value.

        What alternate theory do you have for why the dozens of previous micropayment schemes have failed? I don’t think “a smooth working implementation”, convenience, is a compelling answer answer because so many clunky, confusing, unreliable things that have take off because they provide something new and useful. Think of early browsers that had to run external image viewers, or ICQ with its numbered accounts, or the Altair home computer that had to be soldered together. People put up with a lot of nonsense when there’s something new and valuable happening (and yes, afterwards, that leader usually gets eaten by a more convenient fast follower).

    2. 4

      This is already an old idea — that browsers should let people pay for content directly so that authors and publishers wouldn’t need to rely on ads. But it seems to never get any attention it deserves. I actually think it’s the main thing that should happen to Web in the nearest future for it to remain useful.

      1. 3

        The standard has been waiting for it.

      2. 1

        I think adding more APIs to web browsers is a bad idea. They are big already and the more things you add to them the more difficult it is to trust them, complexity is the enemy of security, and this is the exact opposite of what you want to accomplish. Adding payment APIs to the web is really about trust and web browsers really just need a way to establish trust and then companies like Stripe, and Klarna, can produce services on top of that trust. Klarna is already doing a better job than an API is likely to.